Awards & Engraving

September '19

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A&E SEPTEMBER 2019 • 55 Cathy Garcia, Marco Awards Group, chimes in on how budget has impacted this market. "(All levels are) driven by budget and type of award," she states. This is espe- cially true in lower levels such as grade and middle school, where budgets tend to be smaller. One key influencer in this budget trend is the national discussion on the impor- tance of awards, particularly participation trophies. "Some (customers) use the excuse of the ongoing 'trophy culture' digs to… save budget dollars," Jim O'Neill, Pace- setter Awards, points out. Despite this being grounded simply on perception, it's a factor with many buyers nevertheless. Garcia notes that while this is largely an unfounded view, it does play a role and award retailers can't ignore it. "If the awards retailer has not re-invented itself, more than likely (the business) is already gone or heading to business closure," she states. CURRENT LINEUP These developments all indicate the importance of adapting to change when it comes to the school sports awards niche. An awards retailer doesn't have to close its doors as long as it can change, too. Part of doing so includes paying atten- tion to the trends surrounding awards and personalized items. Just because budgets are lower doesn't mean school programs aren't still looking for recognition prod- ucts. Depending on the age level, different styles are more popular. "Each segment has a different budget and a different market," Avenson says. For example, elementary schools tend toward smaller inexpensive trophies since the younger audience is still thrilled with them. "It is slowly changing to that way for the high schools, but there are still many high schools that prefer a cast metal-plated figure," he adds. He goes on to discuss the college level, where budgets are generally a little looser. "Colleges are the one place that consider high- end cast metal sports awards a high-value asset," Avenson notes. "They know that the awards will go into their display cases and do not want to see a huge sports accomplishment represented by inferior products." Don't forget about some of the more non-traditional recognition products. O'Neill lists record walls as one such item, which often feature perpetual plaques. Schools also recognize effective teachers/ coaches, vibrant teams, and other accom- plishments. Additionally, retailers can help with signage, he suggests. Most school sports customers want the best product they can get at the price tag they can afford, so present a variety of options. IMAGES COURTESY R.S. OWENS Colleges are the one place that consider high-end cast metal sports awards a high-value asset.

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